Professional Selling Skills

What are the Top Professional Selling Skills

What sets the top sales performers apart from the rest ?

What are their professional selling skills ?

1. Setting Meeting Objectives

A Well Formed Outcome

The best salespeople probably make fewer sales calls - but better ones. 

They understand that the best persuasion techniques in the world work much better with some planning behind them.

They focus a lot of effort on preparing for a call
They determine the logical next step for each meeting.
Then, working backwards, they think about what they need to do to make this outcome a reality.
They look at every idea they come up with from their customer's perspective.

They think: “If I said or did this, how would my customer interpret it or react?”
Then they make changes before the call to increase their chances of success.

Before they walk into a meeting they know exactly what they want from the meeting and have thought about what their customer wants.

They have made sure that these Outcomes are “Well-Formed Outcomes” and they have thought through possible differences in their customer’s thinking and how to phrase or adjust their offer to be more in line with the customer’s outcome.

This is probably one of the most overlooked practices of the elite sales person.

Read more about Well Formed Outcomes

2. State of Mind

If you are in a good state of mind, your language will flow easier, you'll gain rapport instantaneously, you will sound more convincing and you'll get the information you want faster.

The skill is being able to master your state so that it doesn’t matter if you’ve just been booked for speeding, had an argument with your partner or been in a car accident, when you walk into the sales meeting you are focused on the client.

Focused enough to sense the client’s mood and if their mood is down and you’re feeling “on top of the world” you are capable of toning down your mood to be only a little more upbeat than them. (You can gradually improve their mood once you establish rapport.)

I write about Anchoring in an article here but you can apply anchors to yourself and control your "state of mind" at will.

3. Establishing a Connection with Prospects

Connection with a prospect is often referred to as being in Rapport with them.

Rapport is the process of establishing and maintaining a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between two or more people. And a positive trusting relationship with prospects and customers is the holy grail of salespeople.

After all when customers feel comfortable and at ease with a salesperson, they are more likely to open up about their needs and concerns, which allows the salesperson to better understand their situation and provide tailored solutions.

I would also like to suggest that being in Rapport with someone is like getting the attention of their unconscious mind.

The real test for rapport is the degree to which a person is responsive and open.

When people are in rapport there is mutual responsiveness.

If someone is hesitant, uncooperative and reluctant to communicate, it is highly likely that rapport is not sufficiently deep for the person to be open.

A really good salesperson can reach this level of rapport quite quickly with almost anyone.

It is generally suggested that you should focus on establishing common ground with your customers. This can involve finding shared interests or experiences, using humour, or simply being friendly and approachable. And while this is useful that's not all there is to building rapport. You should also be attentive to your customers' needs and preferences, and be willing to go the extra mile to make them feel valued and respected. You should listen actively to your customers, respond thoughtfully to their questions and concerns, and show empathy and understanding.

But I believe there is even more to it.
And there are communication methods that build a bridge to the unconscious mind of your prospect allowing a level of trust and understanding  that surpasses the connection established by the methods I just mentioned.

This is probably the most under-trained professional selling skill.

How important is rapport to the sales process?

The professional selling skill of Rapport is one of the most important selling skills.

Sharon Drew Morgan in her book “Sales on the Line” writes,

“There are three ways to make a sale: Rapport, Rapport and Rapport. No matter how good your product is, how good your questions are, if you are out of Rapport with your buyer then there won’t be a sale.” (Morgan, p.58)

"All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. And all things being NOT so equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends."  - Jeffrey Gitomer

To learn about establishing a connection read about Rapport here. 

4. Time & Self Management

Your success as a salesperson depends, in part, on your ability to prioritise your activities and make the most of your available time.
After all, you are often responsible for managing a wide range of tasks, from prospecting and lead generation to following up with existing customers and closing deals.

To manage your time effectively, you must first set clear goals and objectives for yourself. This might involve identifying your top sales priorities, such as generating new leads or closing a certain number of deals within a given timeframe. You can then prioritise activities based on their importance and urgency.

Most salespeople are out on the road. Often, without someone to keep them organised. 
And effective time management requires discipline and focus. 

Top salespeople plan their time;

  • they use their diaries extensively
  • they avoid overcommitting themselves
  • they focus on the priorities
  • they are disciplined
  • they are aware of common time-wasters, (social media & some meetings) and avoid these distractions whenever possible.
  • they are willing to delegate, where possible
  • they remember to bring their sales aids with them
  • they carry change for the parking meter or motorway
  • they always have business cards with them
  • they always carry a pen and notebook
  • they are on time
  • they set realistic deadlines and timeframes for completing tasks
  • they are organised.

Technology can be a valuable tool for salespeople looking to manage their time more effectively. CRM software, for example, can help you keep track of your leads and prospects, automate routine tasks, and prioritise activities based on their importance and urgency.

I couldn’t count the number of sales I won by “jumping the gun”.
What I mean is that I knew how much stock the client had and their use pattern, so I made a note in my diary to make sure I contacted them well before their reorder date and often I had the sale before the opposition had even been in contact with them.

Some tips on time management and productivity can be found by clicking the link below.

7 Time Management Tips to Boost Your Productivity

5. Listening

Listening Skills are essential if you want to be a good salesperson.

Listening shows respect for your client.
It also allows you to hear what’s really important to them and to spot needs when they arise. 
It also allows you to learn more about the customer themselves.

An old sales manager of mine used to say,
“You have two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio!”

It is easier to listen if you have planned a series of questions to ask BEFORE you go into the sales call. 
That way, you are free to concentrate on listening to your client, rather than thinking about the next question to ask.

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to, to be absolutely sure you know what your customers wants. 
Repeat back to them your understanding of their situation and confirm it before you proceed.

Effective Listening Helps You Make Sales

Many sales trainers recommend Active Listening which involves paying close attention to what customers are saying, asking clarifying questions, and demonstrating empathy and understanding. By actively listening to their customers, salespeople can gain a better understanding of their needs and concerns, which allows them to provide tailored solutions that meet their specific requirements.

To employ active listening, you should first focus on eliminating distractions and giving your customers your full attention. This might involve turning off your phone or computer and avoiding multitasking during conversations. You should also use nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and nodding, to signal that you are listening and engaged.

When customers are speaking, listen carefully to your prospect's words and ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share more about their needs and concerns. For example, they might ask questions such as "Can you tell me more about how you're currently using our product?" or "What are your top priorities for your business right now?"

In addition to listening actively, you should also demonstrate empathy and understanding when interacting with customers. This involves acknowledging their feelings and concerns and showing that you care about their needs and goals. For example, you might say things like "I understand how frustrating that must be for you" or "It sounds like you're really looking for a solution that will save you time and money."

6. Asking Effective Questions

Asking effective questions is an important skill for salespeople because it helps them gather valuable information about their customers' needs and interests. 

The questions you ask your prospect should be aimed at finding their pain (i.e. their problem) and how big a problem it is.

OR what they stand to gain from your offering.

To get that information from prospects you have to ask a certain type of question. 
By asking open-ended questions, you can encourage your customers to share more about their goals, challenges, and preferences, which can help you provide tailored solutions that meet their specific needs.
Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Instead, they require customers to provide more detailed and thoughtful responses. 

By asking open-ended questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your customers' needs and interests. You can use this information to make sure you discuss exactly what's of interest to THEM and hopefully provide solutions that address your customers' specific challenges and goals.

You can then ask questions that focus on the effects of the problem, which in turn focuses the prospect on all the benefits they would gain in solving the problem or making the change.

Many sales trainers and books focus on the above but few even mention the professional selling skill of really understanding your prospect.

While you are establishing the above information you should also be asking questions to gain more information about your prospect:

  • what’s important to them,
  • how they think,
  • how they recognise a good deal.

Two excellent books on sales questions are SPIN Selling and The Secrets of Question Based Selling and I have written summaries of both of them on this site ...

I have two other web pages that might be of interest: 

7. Language

Successful sales people are very good at the use of language.

After all effective communication is a critical skill for salespeople because it allows them to build trust and influence customers. Salespeople who can communicate clearly and persuasively can establish themselves as knowledgeable and trustworthy experts, which can help them gain their customers' confidence and persuade them to take action.

Successful salespeople need to be able to articulate their ideas and solutions clearly and concisely.

You can often spot an elite salesperson just by listening to their language.

A professional salesperson also needs to be persuasive.
They should be able to present their products or services in a way that highlights their benefits and addresses their customers' needs and concerns. This might involve using persuasive language, such as "imagine how much time and money you could save with our solution" or "our product is the best on the market because it offers unique features that other products lack."

They are very good at reframing an objection to appear like a benefit. 
They can use language to minimise a shortcoming of their product and make the benefits of their offering seem more important in the eyes of their prospect.
They use language to control the focus of their prospects attention.

But it's not just about the words they use.
It's about how well they listen and understand the words that their customer say.
Only by listening and UNDERSTANDING can you frame your language in a way that gains the attention and interest of your prospect.
In terms of listening be wary of assumptions which often come about when people use nominalisations

I have written a number of articles on sales language like ...
"Words that Sell"

8. Handling Objections

Uncovering and handling objections is one of the most important professional selling skills a salesperson can have and is covered elsewhere on this site

Overcoming Sales Objections

9. Closing Skills

There are hundreds of closing methods. The ones I list below are used often.

Of course, it's also very important to be able to recognize a buying signal.

Do you know the:

  • Order Blank Close?
  • Alternative Choice Questions Close?
  • Ben Franklin Balance Sheet Close?
  • Scarcity Close?
  • Minor point Close?
  • Judger / Perceiver Close?

The Judger / Perceiver Close can be extremely effective if used correctly and on the right person.

Hang on, that's only NINE !

Well, I actually hinted at the tenth skill at the very start of this page.

10. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others. It  allows you to build rapport with your customers, handle objections effectively, and close deals successfully.

In sales, emotions can play a big role in the decision-making process. Customers may have fears, concerns, or hesitations about making a purchase, and it's you job as a salesperson to address these emotions and help the customer feel confident in their decision.

To be emotionally intelligent, you should first be aware of your own emotions and how they might impact your interactions with customers. You should also be able to regulate your emotions and respond appropriately in high-pressure or emotional situations.

In addition, salespeople should be able to read and respond to the emotions of their customers. This might involve listening actively to their concerns, asking open-ended questions to uncover their needs and interests, and showing empathy and understanding for their perspective.

Emotional intelligence can also be helpful in handling objections. By recognizing and addressing the underlying emotions behind a customer's objection, you can help them feel heard and understood and move them closer to a purchase decision.

Finally, emotional intelligence can be important in closing deals successfully. By building rapport with customers and understanding their emotional needs and motivations, you can use language and techniques that are more likely to persuade them to make a purchase.

Overall, emotional intelligence is a key skill for successful selling. By being aware of and responsive to your own emotions and those of your customers, you can build stronger relationships, handle objections effectively, and close more deals.

10. Practiced.

The most professional salespeople practice ALL the skills mentioned above.

They practice until they are masters at them.

It’s not just enough to know what these selling skills are, they need to be practiced and honed: until they become a habit, until you can do them without even thinking, until you are Unconsciously Competent at them.

What do I mean by unconsciously competent?

Think back to when you started to ride a bike. 
It looked easy when you saw older children do it, didn't it?
At that point you were unconsciously incompetent.

Then you tried to ride for the first time. 
Not as easy as it looked was it. 
You wobbled and swayed and probably fell. 
Then you became conscious of your incompetence.

Then you practiced and tried and had help and practiced.
Then if you thought about what you were doing really hard and kept reminding yourself to do this and do that, you could ride!
Ahhh. You were consciously competent. 
That means you could do it if you kept thinking about what you were doing and didn’t get distracted.

After a while your self-talk subsided and you could relax on a bike and ride with friends and talk as you were riding along.
It was as easy as walking. 
You could do it without thinking. 
That, my friends is unconscious competence.

So, keep in mind that the star sales performers probably do many of the things below without thinking about it. It’s just the habits they have acquired over the years.

These skills are very relevant in business-to-business sales where you are selling to professional buyers.

And growing your small business sales through exceptional sales skills is a necessary part of business.

I sincerely hope these suggestions on the professional selling skills you need to develop help you further Your Sales Success.

Following Up

Following up with customers after a sale is an important aspect of professional selling. It involves reaching out to customers after a sale to check in with them, address any concerns or issues they may have, and offer additional support and resources.

Effective follow-up can help build customer loyalty and create opportunities for future sales. When salespeople follow up with customers, they show that they care about their customers' needs and are committed to providing excellent customer service. This can help build trust and strengthen the relationship between the salesperson and the customer.

You see, follow-ups don't just show you're attentive and builds trust it also showcases your authentic dedication. 

And guess what? There's a huge payoff. Your clients start to see you as the 'go-to' person who's invested in their needs. This not only bolsters your reputation but can also lead to repeat business.

Follow-up can also help identify opportunities for additional sales. By checking in with customers and asking about their needs and preferences, salespeople can identify new opportunities to sell additional products or services that meet their customers' needs. Not to mention, the more you follow up, the more you learn. You gain insights to fine-tune your sales strategy and handle objections.

Effective follow-up requires organization and time management skills, as well as effective communication skills. Salespeople should be prepared to answer questions, address concerns, and provide resources that support the customer's needs.